Jack Ketchum is a novelist who has arguably redefined Horror. His latest novel is I’m Not Sam, and he is currently working on a new novel. It is unlike anything he has done before. Jack met me at The Slaughterhouse where we talked about latent censorship and social engineering.
Tell us about your new book.
I can’t tell you a damn thing about the subject matter of my new book, because I’m doing it with Lucky McKee, as I did THE WOMAN and I’M NOT SAM and we’re both pledged to secrecy. That’s how I prefer to work anyway. You don’t show off the baby until you’re sure it has only one head. What I can say is that it’s unlike anything either of us have ever done before — with nods here and there to past stuff, sure, but basically we’re treading ground that’s new to us, which is great fun. We’re going to hit you up emotionally with this one, keep you guessing, and scare you with…the possibilities.
To what extent do your fictions challenge the censorship behind commercial literary representations of sex and do you think the limits set by publishing constitute a form of social engineering?
I run into censorship very rarely these days. I find it interesting that not very long ago — ten years? twenty? — everybody was worried about where to draw the line(s) on sex. Now almost nobody does from what I can see. And we’re living in a society which is otherwise far more repressed than the 60s or 70s or even 90s. I doubt there would have been a MASTERS OF SEX ten years ago to throw our present-day repressions back in our faces, because we didn’t need it then, because today looks a whole lot like the 1950s with all its attendant bullshit. We apparently need reminding that we haven’t come very far at all. That’s where art steps in. My rules for my own serious work in this regard are simple. (I say serious because I also write sillysex now and then.) Keep it up close and personal. And as best you can, remember how sex feels like in all its permutations, both physical and emotional — and not how you’d have liked it to have been.
Do you think we live in an age of conformity and that people are frightened of being alienated from the right crowd?
Since the Depression and World War II, conformity has held a very strong lure for Americans. There’s safety of all kinds to be had in numbers, and in instantly recognizable niches, in the comfy and familiar. There’s nothing really wrong with that unless you add a large dose of fear. Which we’re getting daily thanks to all the talking heads and their sponsors in the media. When is the last time you switched on the news and somebody wasn’t trying to scare you? Is your money safe? Are your kids safe? Is your very life safe? Well gee, we hope so, say the media, but maybe not, and just in case lets argue this till we’re blue in the face and talking loudly over one another in what sounds very much like fear. I call these the Anxiety Professionals. But don’t worry, here’s a very cute baby with a really cute puppy and a SUPER cute kitten to e-mail to all your friends. You stupid fuck you. Till next time. Thanks for watching.
What else is on the cards for you this year?
Lucky McKee and I are working on an as-yet-untitled book-slash-film and we’re well on our way into it. Having just as much fun as we did on the first two, so if you liked those you may very well like this one. Meantime there’s a book of essays in the works called WHAT THEY WROTE. Me on other people’ writing. That should be available shortly.
Thanks Jack for a perceptive interview.
Find everything Jack Ketchum at his website: all his novels, novels adapted to film, awards, social media links, the whole nine.